Sat - 25.11.2017

Five Johnston Press dailies go weekly in move towards "platform neutral" content

Five Johnston Press dailies go weekly in move towards "platform neutral" content

By the end of next month, five Johnston Press daily local papers will begin publishing in print just once a week and will distribute daily news on digital platforms only, the company announced today.

The changes were already suggested last month, when CEO of Johnston Press Ashley Highfield told paidContent: “we’re going to flip the model from newspaper-first every day to digital-first.” Highfield suggested that in the future Johnston press papers would “produce a bumper weekly in print. By 2020, that will be the model. We’ve run the numbers and think that can be a profitable model.”

Although the nature of the re-launches at Johnston Press are not surprising, the speed with which they are being implemented is more of a shock. According to the company’s press release, Johnston Press intends to radically redesign all of its 170 titles by the end of the year to make them “platform neutral.” Further details of Johnston Press’s new digital publishing strategy will announced on 25th April, when the company is due to release its annual results.

According to Press Gazette, the five local papers to be relaunched in May are The Scarborough Evening News, Northants Evening Telegraph, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Halifax Courier, and Peterborough Evening Telegraph.

Johnston Press specifies that the adoption of the new model at these papers will “comprise the creation of new 'platform neutral' newsrooms at each centre with significant investment in both print and digital publishing, enabling seven days per week publishing online and also accessible via new iPad apps for each title.”

The release goes on to say that the new weekly editions of the papers will be reformatted and their websites will be given a “light touch re-launch” to improve their home pages and make them more social-media and comment friendly.

Highfield said in an official statement: “our publishing strategy going forward will ensure that we give our local audiences what they want. While providing our existing audiences with an even better product, both in print and online, we will extend our audience by increasing our online content and making it easier to access in the most relevant ways as technologies continue to evolve.”

Despite Highfield’s positivity, reports that the National Union of Journalists fear that the changes will lead to a swathe of layoffs. The publication quotes NUJ regional organiser Chris Morley, who states “it's quite clear that the company will be looking to cut many editorial jobs and it threatens to be a massacre of journalist jobs.”

The NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, quoted by Press Gazette, has promised to “robustly fight any compulsory redundancies.” points out that today’s announcement follows major editorial changes and cuts unveiled by Johnston Press last week. The company announced that it would be combining editorial roles and newsrooms across several of its publications, with some senior positions being scrapped altogether. The changes included the editorships of the Yorkshire Post and the Yorkshire Evening Post being combined, and the current editor-in-chief of the company’s Scottish publications, John McLellan, being placed on leave. As Press Gazette reported last week, journalists at The Scotsman walked out last Thursday after it was announced that McLellan was being let go. In addition to the current layoffs, five senior management roles were also cut in February.

Johnston Press faces huge financial challenges. As Press Gazette reported at the beginning of the month, the company owes £350 million, and has delayed the publication of financial results so that it can continue to negotiate its debt.

As it converts its publications from dailies to weeklies, Johnston Press is not alone. Press Gazette states that five other UK local daily papers have made the same switch over the past year.

Sources: Press Gazette, (1) (2) (3), paidContent, Johnston Press. (1) (2) (3), sfnblog


Hannah Vinter


2012-04-16 16:24

Shaping the Future of the News Publishing

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